By Erick Lehman, Managing Editor
There was a bit of déjà vu in the Fieldhouse on Friday night.
The University of Michigan-Dearborn hockey team found themselves trailing Adrian College by one goal with just over one minute to play.
Nate Ferris stood anxiously at the top of the crease waiting for word from head coach Chris Haltinner to come to the bench for the extra skater.
Ferris raced to the bench, and out came another forward, giving the Wolverines a 5-on-4 opportunity.
A quick Adrian penalty with just a tad over a minute to play in regulation gave the Wolverines a 6-on-4 change with the Bulldog in the box, a daunting task for Adrian to stop with the game on the line.
Gino Darin parked himself right in front of the Adrian goaltender and prepared to do his job: screen the goalie and knock one in.
“When I’m in front of the net, I’m in my own little world,” Darin said. “That’s my happy place being out there, especially on the powerplay.”
“I just try and put my stick on it.”
Defenseman Ryan Urso got the puck off the faceoff and ripped a shot right at the net, and right at Darin.
Darin put his stick on it, and guided it through.
Tie game; 57 seconds remaining
“I was just kind of doing my job, sit in front of the net, let people tee off shots at me,” Darin said. “I got it through the five hole, turned around and it was in the back of the net.”
And for the second straight year, the Wolverines were taking the perennial powerhouse in the ACHA known as Adrian to overtime.
And much like last year it did not take the Wolverines long to put the game away.
A quick rush from Jeff McFarland, Tyler Groat, and Nick Laburn gave the Wolverines a great 3-on-2 opportunity.
McFarland put on the brakes, and flipped it over to Groat for the one-timer.
Adrian goaltender Austyn Roudebush, one of the best in the country, made a great save on one of the best finishers in the country.
But the puck slipped through, and Laburn tapped the puck in for the Wolverine victory.
4-3; Game over.
Laburn, who is normally a forward, was playing on the defensive end a bit in the game due to a couple of scratches by the Wolverines.
Troy Saunders was unable to play due to a suspension from the Oakland game last week, so Laburn and Kevin Bechard played some defense.
“I started that shift on defense. Our line had a rush and I followed it up; I was a little tired but I stayed out there ‘cause I saw I might get a chance,” Laburn said after the big heroic win Friday night. “Jeff made a good play to Groat for the one-timer, and I went right to the net, puck squeaked through and it was there for me.”
“It always feels good getting that goal. It was a pretty lucky bounce, came right to me in the crease, and just banked it in.”
The Wolverines got on the board early in this game.
After back to back penalties that UM-Dearborn was able to kill off, Groat scored a goal from Andrew Palushaj, adding to his already impressive goals total for the season.
Just 18 seconds later, McFarland put one past Roudebush to make it a 2-0 game early in the first.
Adrian did not make things easy, tightening the gap late in the first period, and then scoring two goals in the second period to take the lead, setting up the heroics from Darin and Laburn.
The game was not quite a must win for the Wolverines, who came into the game ranked 13th in the ACHA ranking, the top-20 teams go to the national tournament in Chicago this year.
Adrian was ranked 5th in the nation.
The win was challenging, but one the Wolverines felt they were up, too.
“It was a hard-fought game for us,” Haltinner said. “Playing them is tough.
“Wins against a team like that do not come easy. We can do good things if we work hard.”
Urso talked after the game about this being a measuring stick, and proving that the Wolverines are prepared to take on any team in the nation.
“The big test for us was this game. This is a big win and proves we can hang with anyone in the country,” Urso said. “It was a great team win, great character win.”
The Wolverines continued to ride the hot wave of Friday night’s victory into Saturday.
UM-Dearborn defeated Adrian Saturday night at Arrington Arena in Adrian by a score of 2-1, completing a clean sweep.
“We knew the moment we stepped on the ice we could compete with them,” Darin said.
Laburn had his second goal of the series in the win Saturday, and Kevin Bechard added one to lift the Wolverines. Ryan Kelly, Urso, Darin, and Tyler Dalton all had assists in Saturday night’s victory.
The Wolverines are heading to Lynchburg, VA. next weekend for a road series against Liberty University. Liberty is currently ranked 16th in the ACHA, and has a record of 9-11-1.